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In re Christian C.-B.

Supreme Court of New York, Fourth Department

March 31, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF CHRISTIAN C.-B. AND KNOAH L. C.-B.
v.
CHRISTOPHER.B., AND RENEE E.C., RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS. LIVINGSTON COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT;

          ERICKSON WEBB SCOLTON & HAJDU, LAKEWOOD (LYLE T. HAJDU OF COUNSEL), FOR RESPONDENT-APPELLANT CHRISTOPHER V.B.

          BRIDGET L. FIELD, ROCHESTER, FOR RESPONDENT-APPELLANT RENEE E.C.

          JOHN T. SYLVESTER, MT. MORRIS, FOR PETITIONER-RESPONDENT.

          FARES A. RUMI, ATTORNEY FOR THE CHILDREN, ROCHESTER.

          PRESENT: WHALEN, P.J., SMITH, CARNI, LINDLEY, AND NEMOYER, JJ.

         Appeals from an order of the Family Court, Livingston County (Robert B. Wiggins, J.), entered November 24, 2015 in a proceeding pursuant to Social Services Law § 384-b. The order, among other things, terminated respondents' parental rights.

         It is hereby ORDERED that said appeal by respondent Christopher V.B. is unanimously dismissed and the order is affirmed without costs.

         Memorandum: In this permanent neglect proceeding pursuant to Family Court Act article 6 and Social Services Law § 384-b, respondent parents appeal from an order terminating their parental rights. Initially, we note that the father's sole contention on appeal is that Family Court erred in denying the mother's request for a suspended judgment. With respect "to the determination of the mother's parental rights . . . [the father] cannot be considered an aggrieved party, and [thus] his appeal must be dismissed" (Matter of Vivian OO., 33 A.D.3d 1096, 1096; see Matter of Charle C.E. [Chiedu E.], 129 A.D.3d 721, 721-722; see also Matter of Terrance M. [Terrance M., Sr.], 75 A.D.3d 1147, 1147).

         On her appeal, the mother initially contends that petitioner failed to establish that it had exercised diligent efforts to encourage and strengthen the parent-child relationship while she was incarcerated, as required by Social Services Law § 384-b (7) (a). We reject that contention. "Diligent efforts include reasonable attempts at providing counseling, scheduling regular visitation with the child[ren], providing services to the parent[] to overcome problems that prevent the discharge of the child[ren] into [his or her] care, and informing the parent[] of [the children's] progress" (Matter of Jessica Lynn W., 244 A.D.2d 900, 900-901; see § 384-b [7] [f]). Petitioner is not required, however, to "guarantee that the parent succeed in overcoming his or her predicaments" (Matter of Sheila G., 61 N.Y.2d 368, 385; see Matter of Jamie M., 63 N.Y.2d 388, 393). Rather, the parent must "assume a measure of initiative and responsibility" (Jamie M., 63 N.Y.2d at 393). Here, petitioner established, by the requisite clear and convincing evidence (see § 384-b [3] [g] [i]), that it fulfilled its duty to exercise diligent efforts to encourage and strengthen the mother's relationships with her children (see generally Matter of Star Leslie W., 63 N.Y.2d 136, 142). For instance, petitioner established that it arranged visitation between the mother and the subject children, transported the children to those visits, "explored the planning resources suggested by [the mother, ] and kept [her] apprised of the child[ren]'s progress" (Matter of "Male C.", 22 A.D.3d 250, 250; see Matter of Davianna L. [David R.], 128 A.D.3d 1365, 1365, lv denied 25 N.Y.3d 914; Matter of Mya B. [William B.], 84 A.D.3d 1727, 1727-1728, lv denied 17 N.Y.3d 707). Thus, "given the circumstances, [petitioner] provided what services it could" (Matter of Curtis N., 290 A.D.2d 755, 758, lv dismissed 97 N.Y.2d 749).

         Contrary to the further contention of the mother, the court properly concluded that she permanently neglected the subject children inasmuch as she "failed substantially and continuously or repeatedly to . . . plan for the future of the child[ren] although . . . able to do so" (Star Leslie W., 63 N.Y.2d at 142; see Matter of Justin Henry B., 21 A.D.3d 369, 370). " [T]o plan for the future of the child' shall mean to take such steps as may be necessary to provide an adequate, stable home and parental care for the child" (Social Services Law § 384-b [7] [c]). "At a minimum, parents must take steps to correct the conditions that led to the removal of the child[ren] from their home' " (Matter of Nathaniel T., 67 N.Y.2d 838, 840; see Matter of Crystal Q., 173 A.D.2d 912, 913, lv denied 78 N.Y.2d 855). Here, "there is no evidence that [the mother] had a realistic plan to provide an adequate and stable home for the child[ren]" (Matter of Saiah Isaiah C. [Tanisha C.], 144 A.D.3d 585, 586; see Matter of Micah Zyair F.W. [Tiffany L.], 110 A.D.3d 579, 579).

         Finally, we reject the mother's contention that the court erred in denying her request for a suspended judgment. The court concluded, inter alia, that there was little chance that the mother could continue to control her addictions or gain insight into how her choices were impacting the children, and " [t]he court's assessment that [the mother] was not likely to change [her] behavior is entitled to great deference' " (Matter of Tiara B. [Torrance B.],70 A.D.3d 1307, 1308, lv denied 14 N.Y.3d 709; see Matter of Jane H. [Susan H.],85 A.D.3d 1586, 1587, lv denied 17 N.Y.3d 709; Matter of Philip D., 266 A.D.2d 909, 909). Consequently, the court properly determined that " [f]reeing the child[ren] for adoption provided [them] with prospects for permanency and some sense of the stability [they] deserved, ...


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